What if I told you I’ve been writing this book for almost 8 years? Well, it’s true. And that’s a long time for an idea to be in my head. And if I told you the number of programs I’ve purchased, editors I’ve hired, and coaches I’ve paid to help me write it? You’d laugh, because I laughed too when I realized how much energy I spent and how hard I tried to get someone else to help me write this book. I needed to help myself. Now, as I continue to learn how to get out of my own way and show up for my own healing and writing process, I smile when I reflect upon how far I have come, and this brings me back to where my writing journey began.
I was 33 when I first set the intention to write this collection of life stories. The idea came to me while on the porch of a guesthouse in Uluwatu, Bali, when I was staying there with a new traveling friend named Maarten. Maarten was in his early 20’s, was from Amsterdam, and we met in the taxi line at the airport in Denpasar, Bali. I was en route to see some friends who were staying in Kuta Beach, so my plan was to be with them for a night or two and then head on to Ubud to hopefully have some sort of self-discovery “Eat, Pray, Love” experience. And it just so happened that Maarten was going to Kuta Beach as well, so we agreed to share a taxi. We got along well on the 20 minute drive, so upon hearing that I didn’t have any concrete lodging plans yet, he invited me to share the hotel room he’d already booked because it had two beds. The hotel room was inexpensive, had great amenities and was close to the bar in Kuta Beach where my friends were going to be, so it was perfect and I said yes. Maarten and I stayed there for 2 nights, and then afterwards we decided to keep traveling together and he agreed to go with me to Ubud, but wanted to stop in Uluwatu first, which was known for having a world class surf spot.
It was about 45 minutes to Uluwatu, and we found an adorable guest house to rent near the viewing hut of the surf spot. We spent two days there and we lounged, talked, ate out together every meal, watched the surfers, soaked up the natural beauty and just enjoyed our time together. On our last night, we sat on the front porch, with Maarten in a chair with a book and me on my yoga mat on the ground and out of the blue he said to me, “Harriet, you should write a book with all your stories, I’d read it.” And he didn’t mention it again. On the outside I smiled and continued to stretch, yet on the inside, I could feel a tiny seed taking root.
Maarten and I continued on to Ubud together where I dragged him along with me on my personal mission to find Wayan, the medicine healer from the popular book, “Eat, Pray, Love.” We had a wonderful week full of adventures and Maarten’s companionship during this life changing trip was a precious gift for me, yet it didn’t stop there.
During our travels, Maarten told me a beautiful story about a gift he received from his mother after his father passed away a few years before. It was a tiny metal statue of the Buddha, about an inch tall, intended for Maarten to carry with him, in order to help him find his way in the absence of his father. I knew about the statue because he’d showed it to me, but that last night in Ubud, while we sat at a cute restaurant at a window table, drinking wine, he reached into his pocket and gave me the Buddha Statue. He said he had loved his time with me and had learned so much about himself, about women and life, that as a thank you he wanted to pass along the Buddha statue to me, to help me find MY way. Wow, what an incredible gift that brought me to tears. I gave Maarten an enormous hug and vowed to do good with this statue; I’d find my way.
The next morning as I got in my taxi to head back to the United States, Maarten gave me a hug and said, “let me know when your book is out so I can read it.” And I closed the taxi door feeling chills over my whole body. I could literally feel excited running through my body about the idea of writing this book. So Maarten said that I helped him, but he also helped me see me in a whole new way. That I was an inspiration by what I’d been through. And instead of judging my experiences or making them wrong, I began to see that all of my experiences and stories have value, have helped shape me, and deserve to be acknowledged and perhaps even shared. I thought about writing a book my entire flight home and returned to my home in Salt Lake City hell bent on writing this book immediately. But then realized I had no experience in writing.
At that point in my life my writing experience consisted of school essays, online dating profiles for myself, long emotional text messages, and business correspondence letters. But nothing like a book, for anyone to read. I sat down several times in front of a blank page or a blank computer screen and tried to write and I’d coach myself and say, “ok Harriet, go write some stories about your life, you’re totally supported,” and then I’d draw a blank and create nothing. I’d heard about writer’s block, but wasn’t it supposed to come further along in the process, not at the beginning?
So I shelved the book idea and threw myself into work, self-development and Match.com. At that time I was single and I owned a 10 year old day spa and wellness center in Park City, Utah, and after my travels, I felt like a new me, which often attracted new experiences. And such an experience arrived. One day, while out at a lunch meeting with a client asking his advice for some advice related to my landlord and a new neighbor tenant, my client shocked me by saying he was interested in buying my spa and taking it to the next level. I was both flattered and intrigued by the offer, and I found myself beginning to dream about what I’d do next with my life after the spa. But when we sat down together to negotiate the deal, and he made an offer that I could never dream of accepting, I left the meeting feeling disheartened but with a new motivation. I decided that rather than continuing to make my spa number 1 in my life, I was going to make myself and my healing my top priority. And this also meant this book would have a another chance to come to life, because I wanted to fulfill my intention I made with Maarten. So with my spa team’s blessing, I decided to consciously carve out time for the creation process, and I took a 5-month paid sabbatical from my own company to find my way and write my first book.
My sabbatical began with a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, in which Don Miguel Ruiz was a key speaker, and he sat down with me and shared how to say yes to love. I listened to him intently and did a writing exercise he suggested, and literally the next day, I met the love of my life, who was unlike anyone I’d ever met. He was much younger than me, he didn’t wear shoes, he didn’t have a credit card and he was living in Costa Rica owning a crystal shop, but had a degree from one of the best schools in the United States. Well, I said yes to love, and to this man, and he’s now my husband, the father of my child and the copilot of this amazing life we share together.
As I continued to find myself, by saying yes to love and learning to get out of my way, my stories slowly began to become more alive again, and available to me. And with increasing ease, I would find the time and space for creation, and allow myself to sit with, reflect upon, feel and heal my experiences as I wrote them down one by one. The more I was connected with myself and grounded, the easier and more fluid my writing experience became. Certainly, the process continues to have its ups and downs, yet it is always moving forward with my intention and towards my goal to share my life stories.
It brings me great joy to release these stories, because all of my experiences and lessons, especially the messy or hard ones, are valuable, as are yours. Our stories let us see ourselves in one another and connect with each other, and hopefully grow to become better versions of ourselves. Which to me, is the point of life. And I ended up giving Maarten back his Buddha statue when he came to visit me in Costa Rica, because I felt like I’d found my way to love, and it was time to return the sacred gift from his mother. He’ll be getting one of the first copies of this book, and I hope the stories still continue to help and inspire him, and may they be of service to you as well.